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Forcing School Kids to Walk Farther

Montgomery County

The Montgomery County school board is expected to vote tonight on whether to give Superintendent Jerry D. Weast emergency power to make students walk farther to school, as a way of coping with escalating fuel costs for buses. More walkers would mean fewer buses. But opponents worry that children won't be safe on roads without sidewalks. What do you think?

By Mike McPhate  |  June 23, 2008; 11:54 AM ET
Categories:  Montgomery County  
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I used to walk uphill to and from school.

Posted by: twotimetuna | June 23, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I live in a state where students are expected to walk up to two miles to schools. There is no savings of fuel or money. Now you just have endless lines of parents driving their kids to school creating a nightmare traffic and preventing people from being able to get out of their driveways in the morning. We waste more fuel with the additional thousands of cars (suvs, minivans, and trucks) creaping in stop and go dropoff lines. We also have to pay for extra crossing guards (most of which who can't direct traffic safely!) as well as extra funds to pay for the extra police needed. There are NO savings by taking away bussing!!! You will have to do as we do if this happens in your area - vote AGAINST any school board budget if bussing is taken away. Lack of bussing IS a problem for EVERYONE and NOT just families with children. Come to North Jersey and see how we have really SCREWED things up (Check out Parsippany-Troy Hills).

Posted by: NewJerseyPete | June 23, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Montgomery County is probably the only county in the world where you can't save any money by cutting a government program.We have just had a 14% property tax increase, up to a 52.63% state income tax increase, a 20% car tax increase, a 18% corporate tax increase, a 20% increase in the sales tax, a 10% energy tax increase, the largest water bill increase in 15 years, up to a 75% increase in electricity bills, and a bill Metro far increase while gasoline and milk have hit $4 a gallon.

Kids need more exercise. That is a plain and simple fact. They aren't getting it at school, so they need to get it before, after or on the way to school.

Montgomery County is selling hundreds of school buses each year at auctions for cents on the dollar to other school districts. This is a waste. Why don't we get more miles per bus life?

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker Robin Realty | June 23, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Too many fat kids. Make 'em walk!

Posted by: Jim, Baltimore City, MD | June 23, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Presumeably the original bussing was decided with some safety considerations. Has safety been out-priced by gas?

Perhaps the greener high capacity bus was originally a factor? Now the environment is too expensive?

Need to know the gallons/kid bus efficiency to figure out Weast's pricing.

Will non-bussers get a reduction in taxes to buy gas for the car or umbrellas?

Posted by: Tipping Point | June 23, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

maybe kids would benefit from the extra exercise. maybe the county will save money by not paying for fuel.

but the second commenter is right.

kids won't get the extra exercise, and the fuel will still get burned. it'll just be parents paying for gas themselves and driving their kids. actually, it'll probably use more fuel, because transporting 30 kids in one vehicle has got to be more efficient than driving 30 cars.

Posted by: suburbanite | June 23, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I realize its been 60 years ago that I rode my bike to and from school 6 miles a day unless the weather would not allow, and I also realize times have change, however it would not be unkind to children if they had to walk a few bocks longer to school.

Posted by: mike | June 23, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Money saved on fuel means more money to be spent on education and school safety. Americans are too pampered. Is it really that hard to have a child walk to school? We have umbrellas, heavy coats, boats, bikes, scooters...there's no reason why parent should drive their kids.

Posted by: Jennifer | June 23, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I rode my bike too.

It also highlights how un-pedestrian friendly we've let our neighborhoods get. It's not like there are many sidewalks between our house and the school.

All told I'd just as soon let parents foot the gas bill for getting kids to school. They can car pool if they feel strongly about it.

They should also be selective. Kids in poor neighborhoods should probably still be bused - just like they had all day kindergarten in poor neighborhoods. Not that ANY neighborhoods in MoCo are really poor -- but still....

Posted by: AnnR | June 23, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Living near 3 schools, I have to agree with the second poster:

Cutting busing won't save gas. Every morning on my way to work, I easily pass by hundreds of people dropping their children off to school. Be it to the local high school, or the local middle school (too early for the elementary school crowd).

In fact, eliminating "drop off" lines/ability, and increasing the busing/adjusting the schedule so kids aren't getting on the bus a hour before they need to be at school, would better serve the environment.

I'm not quite sure when it became standard practice to drop your kids off at school rather than waking them up early enough to get properly ready to ride the bus, but it's been within the last 10 years for sure (I remember being up at 5am to get ready so I could catch the bus at 6:15 during middle school, and I'm not that old!)

Posted by: cderalow | June 23, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

make em their parents...from what I can tell the country is quite obese

Posted by: Anonymous | June 23, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Several problems --
1- Their backpacks weigh a TON so walking is somewhat more difficult than it was for me when I went to school.
2- most of the bus routes that go to my daughter's HS are pretty short but exist because of dangerous walks/crossings
3- As mentioned before, many people drive their kids to school because they are afraid their kid will get abducted by pedophiles (how dumb is that).

Posted by: KBethesda | June 23, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

It's to easy to just say, "Let them walk" or "I walked up hill to school when I was young". But face facts - Kids WILL be driven to school. I live where this is happening now and it IS a problem! Even if kids aren't wearing a 35 pound pack, even if there are sidewalks, even if your town is safe, parents WILL end up driving their kids to school. Lack of bussing increases pollution, increases our dependence on fuel, increases traffic and requires more public servant man hours in crossing guards and police. You won't get a brake on your taxes when the bussing goes away, your personal expences will go up when you're sitting in the dropoff lines and your other town taxes will go up because now another budget has to deal with traffic control.

And to the person who suggested carpooling... Get real! It won't happen. It's a nice thought, but it just doesn't happen in the real world. Trust me, I am living the mess that you are heading towards! As bad a Maryland is (The if you can dream it, we can tax it state), New Jersey is many time worse! New Jersey is #2 in taxes (after Connecticut) and still have schools without A/C, reducted programs, reducted bussing and in the last few years we reduced our graduation standards - BUT we every year ask the tax payers for more money! A few years ago, we kept telling ourselves that we were #1 or #2 in education in the nation and didn't mind the runaway taxes - but now we're are nothing special EXCEPT our #2 in the nation taxes!

Posted by: NewJerseyPete | June 23, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

WEre not talking about a few blocks to reach school. the limits in place already are on the verge of unreasonable. It's not just making kids walk more - it's walking more on more crowded roads with heavy gear. I would not let my high school daughter walk 2 miles to school now.

parents will opt to drive at this point. that puts more cars on the road, burns more fuel, creates more emissions, impacts air quality and forces the parents to pay the extra money in gas.

this county is going to hell in a handbasket

Posted by: give kids a break | June 23, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Get the little toads off their arses and make them walk. It's called exercise. Have them look it up in a dictionary.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | June 23, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

obviously you don't have school age children. These are the current limits.

Currently, elementary school students walk up to a mile, middle school students 1.5 miles and high school students two miles.

This is not an easy hike a few blocks. if you're walking the maximum.

Posted by: give kids a break | June 23, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Considering the extremely high rate of childhood obesity in this country, having our children walk a little further to school would not be such a bad idea.

Posted by: A.Lincoln | June 23, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

PS...wouldn't hurt their overweight parents to accompany them to school either.

Posted by: A.Lincoln | June 23, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

If we had sidewalks, kids could walk or ride their bikes safely to school. At the same time we would get a step closer to becoming less dependent on oil and we would address a core issue of childhood obesity - too little exercise.

Posted by: Lothar Hennighausen | June 23, 2008 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Misleading title. Kids are not walking a longer distance to school (the physical location of their houses has not changed). All you're doing is rejecting the bus pass for a small population of people. 2 miles is a lot-- I run it in 16 minutes , and Im in shape. If kids dont bike it, then they will get a ride from parents.

Posted by: cperks | June 23, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse

The kids in the "poorer" neighborhoods are the ones who either walk or are willing to get on a public bus since their own parents don't have the means to take them to school. Thousands of kids do this every day in MoCo without any problems. It's the "entitled" kids who expect their parents to comfort them in every way possible, and unfortunately, instead of telling their kids to take public transportation (which does save fuel), they would rather create more traffic to watch "Johnny" makes it through the front door safely. There's nothing unique about MoCo except the constant bowing down to the wealthy parents. How about teaching kids about respecting their environment by arranging car pools or telling their kids to get on Metrobus? Teach your kids life skills... like riding the metro!!

Posted by: LC | June 23, 2008 10:54 PM | Report abuse

The children in this school district should not have to walk further due to several things such as safety.

Here is an idea - why not have four days in school and one day either a home or at a safe alternate and be required to study or conduct research.

Posted by: Mark | June 23, 2008 11:42 PM | Report abuse

The school board just pushed the cost of fuel from the school system to the parents. The second poster is exactly right. Parents are going to drive their children to school for the same reason they're rejecting the change: they don't feel it is safe for the children to walk to school.

Instead of conserving fuel, this will result in more cars driving to and from school wasting yet more fuel. MoCo is NOT thinking green.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 24, 2008 6:45 AM | Report abuse

If we really want to save money in the school system let's use those big pension adfministrators and school buildings 12 months a year instead of 8 1/2 months. In Utah there are 4 shifts of students, each going to school for 9 weeks with 3 weeks off. Schools and administrators are thus utilized around the year.

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker Robin Realty | June 24, 2008 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I will concede that there's a weight problem amongst U.S. children (and adults). We've become too spoiled. But what constitutes reason when it comes to spiling ourselves? Are safety issues not reason enough to spoil our children?

If you people read the article, you will realize that there are little or no sidewalks. This will increase the safety hazard involved in forcing more children to walk in excess of 2 miles. The second poster was dead-on about more parents driving their children to school.

But there are alternatives! The Utah school calendar idea was not a bad one. In fact, it wouldn't hurt if all 50 states & D.C. and Peurto Rico were to all step up to meet this calendar. This country could definitely use more education.

Another alternative is to keep the bus routes, but consider the average per-child fuel savings of having those additional children walk, and pass a significant percentage (say, 80%) back to the parents with taxes. By the time this is spread out amongst all households (even those without school children), the school system will actually be increasing their funding more than they need and would most likely be able to do so by only passing a $100 per year increase in taxes.

"For less than 30 cents a day, you, too, could help a child get to school safely..."

Posted by: J. Satterfield | June 24, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I take issue with the term "force." The students who are able to walk are the lucky ones! Enjoying the luxury of a walk with a parent is a rarity in our busy schedules.

Safe Routes to School offers a workable alternative to driving. Consider forming a Walking School Bus with neighboring families. It is the same principle as a carpool - only on foot. Students walk everyday, parents rotate the responsibility of escorting the students to and from school.

A route is agreed upon ahead of time and rules are followed to ensure that students arrive safely. Parents will discover that this is a no cost, fun and efficient way to transport kids to school. Students will arrive at school energized and ready to learn.

Ask the students, you may find they prefer walking to school!

Visit the Safe Routes to School website to learn more:

Posted by: Lucy Neher, Safe Routes to School Coordinator, City of Takoma Park | June 25, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

All you "thinking green" posters are missing the point. MoCo doesn't care about parents driving their kids to school and wasting gas. MoCo cares about it's astronomically high gas costs for their buses. It's completely in their best interest to cut the bus routes and push the gas-guzzling onus onto the parents. I see no problem with the district wanting to save money where ever it can.

Posted by: Liz | June 25, 2008 6:37 PM | Report abuse

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